I believe we owe it to our children to tell them that the profession of ‘photojournalist’ no longer exists

- - Photojournalism

Searing commentary on the state of photojournalism by Neil Burgess, former head of Network Photographers and Magnum Photo, two time chairman of World Press Photo and owner of NB Pictures.  Read the whole thing on EPUK, but this tidbit should get you fired up:

Seven British-based photographers won prizes at the ‘World Press Photo’ competition this year and not one of them was financed by a British news organisation. But this is not just a UK problem. Look at TIME and Newsweek, they are a joke. I cannot imagine anyone buys them on the news-stand anymore. I suspect they only still exist because thousands of schools, and libraries and colleges around the world have forgotten to cancel their subscriptions. Even though they have some great names in photojournalism on their mastheads, when did you last see a photo-essay of any significance in these news magazines?


This doom and gloom on the state of photography/magazines/newspaper is all good blog fodder, but the takeaway for me has always been that publishers are in hiding and any path to the future will be forged by people who don’t work for them. Financing of accountability journalism by non profits is a solution that’s been talked about by Clay Shirky (here) and it appears that most of the significant work will come this way for the time being (based on that stat Neil gives about World Press).

There Are 19 Comments On This Article.

  1. Publishers no longer want to invest in photojournalism but photographers are finding ways to continue to produce it. The next evolution in photojournalism will be forged by the photographers themselves. You can already see this happening with efforts like that which VII are putting together and the project Im coordinating, Latitude Magazine. At Latitude Magazine we have 60+ photojournalist involved self publishing a magazine that sells through Apple’s App store for the iPad. Issue 2 is about to be released and the experiment is paying off. Issue one in itself attracted 10% of our readership goal and interest in issue two is already building.

    • @Nathan Shanahan,

      Are you interested in a photojournalist from Mexico as collaborator in Latitude?

      Please send me contact info to sergio (at) lubezky.com

      • @Sergio Lubezky, Due to the nature of Latitude Magazine the location of photographers we bring on board plays a large part of the selection process. As it stands we have two contributors based in Mexico and at this stage are not looking to add a third to the rotation. The Collective will be announcing a new title in the fall so I will definitely be keeping you in my books for that one.

  2. It’s a very well written, honest article, and it’s completely true. I’m only 23 and even I can see that trying to work in the news industry is a fools game. It makes no sense for me to invest my efforts into an industry that *will not* pay it’s dues back.

    I’m glad I saw it coming a few years back, rather than fighting for the scraps of cash the news companies occasionally hand out.

  3. “Slam” – the sound of doors closing as the traditional media is driven from viability by shortsightedness and people who learned all they know in Universities and other Institutions of the Self Annointed.

    “Whoosh” – the sound of other doors opening by those who don’t drink the KoolAid of the dying media establishment and instead of towing a line, flash a finger and resume the important work they do.

    To see how broken it is, one only has to pick up a year old Time or Newsweek at a physicians office to read how WRONG they were at the time, and how much overstated bloviated bullshit gets passed off as ‘news’ these days.

    Good riddance I say. Cannot happen fast enough.

    To the folks holding the brave fight to create something more relevant, hoorah, folks. I will fight alongside.

    What a catastrophe… brought on by shortsighted millionaires.

    Morons all.

  4. Financial news reports the Washington Post is close to a deal to sell Newsweek, though reportedly for very little cash changing hands.


    I have a feeling that unless Newsweek can re-invent themselves, they will simply wind down the publication. What can a 91 y.o. investor possibly do differently?

    Time magazine is propped up on continued ad revenues from big companies. Until some of those companies question the viability and appropriateness of advertising in Time, that magazine will continue. Any hiccup in the revenue stream could signal an end. Subscription numbers mean nothing, other than the ability to show numbers to advertisers in an attempt to justify continued ad placements. Cost cutting may work for a while longer.

    • @Gordon Moat,

      An old rich guy who cares about the arts and doesn’t need the money comes in and says” I don’t care about making a profit right now”, let’s make a a good magazine (hopefully).

      Ideally some amazing news stories and pictorials will win them some awards and maybe the other publishers will take notice that the pictures matter.

      Kind of makes you think what the entire magazine industry would be like if they were all privately owned by art lovers in each respective area.

  5. It’s a different world than it used to be, and it sucks in many ways, but as photographers we need to accept the reality of the current climate and figure out ways to deal with it. I’ve done my fair share of complaining, but it’s time to move forward.

    I’m not sure if photojournalism is dead, but it’s certainly a whole different ballgame.

  6. Ambrose Pierce

    Almost 200 years ago painters and illustrators were up in arms in reaction to a new technology that could quickly and accurately reproduce scenes unrivaled by brush or pen. They felt threatened, and rightly so, their profession was doomed. Today it is the photographer who is up in arms, as they see their profession vanish in the wake of an enormous tide of free images produced by citizen journalists, or gotten cheaply by crowd-sourcing distributors hawking them for a buck.

    Technological revolutions have a way of creating new opportunities, and destroying old ones. Sadly, photojournalism has gone the way of painting. And like painting, it will continue to be practiced, but mainly by students, amateurs, academics, and members of the leisure class for whom photojournalism has always been a popular and convenient excuse for having a “job”. It is from these groups and their contributions to social networks like facebook, twitter, flickr, vimeo, and youtube, that “photojournalism” will be mined.

    So then where are the new opportunities? I wish I knew, that’s what I’m trying to figure out. Seems like those new opportunities are not something an individual can exploit, rather it’s an opportunity of the crowd.

  7. Photojournalism is dead.

    3D movies are the future.


    I didn’t inhale.

    Yep, the experts know all…

  8. There may be an easy way to renew interest in print, and for photojournalism to become a role model. Since every Tom, Dick, Sue, and Grand-pa have a cameras now, and iReport on CNN, and every other media source get more material then can be viewed, why not iPhotojournalism. Real photojournalist can provide the professional side, and one lucky joe gets his/her photos published. This would even create Photo Editor jobs for at least two to go through all the material submitted. :) When someone is included in the magazine or paper, all their friends and family will maybe buy one. Other’s will maybe buy it to see who got picked over them.

    The thing is, the population is already being trained to be glued to a 3″ screen to even watch a movie. ??? Really? Really. So, somehow, there will have to be a way to get people to want to hold and read intelligence again. However, if Sarah Palin is always the news print, I will not only stop reading and buying print, I will also sell my TV.

  9. Photojournalism, like the aforementioned painting, will become taboo. That is definite. It will be practiced by many, but truly perfected by few. For those of us out there that truly have passion and substance in their work in that particular field will be coveted for their work, and there workflow and monetary value will just be elevated rather than be brought down by this climate shift. This will truly syphon the weak from the strong.

  10. lechatnoir

    Austin and Tim

    Painting has always been practiced by many really the number of artists has not increased really .The creative pool and fresh ideas have not been drained just yet. A lot of artists are still use the formulas that work because like us they have to pay the bills.They are even having their own realities show. seriously I wonder what profession hasn’t been turned into a reality TV show or a TV series yet. I can’t think of one.

    It is obvious that many areas of the photography industry will disappear because they are now a commodities. Look at it this way today photographers want to be cinematographers and Cinematographers think they are photographers. You see most most people want that extra dough.

  11. I was just rereading Mr. Burgess’s article and I agree with everything he said. In my opinion there are additional causes for the death of the photojournalism.

    There is so much powerful imagery created everyday that it overloads the audience emotionally and visually while at the same time desensitizing them to the message of the images. This would cause your average person, who generally have little background in the arts and even less understanding of world events, to shut themselves away from these images to protect their psyche and worldview. Looking through the photography blogs from the media outlets I click through when the image is marked for disturbing content and I can only take so much. Still I continue to look because I feel obligated to understand what is happening outside of my small world.

    Additionally, the general distrust of the media by the citizenry does not help the matter either. Add to this distrust the sponsorship of photojournalism by non news organizations and it compounds the issue further.